Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Loss among us

Many bloggers in the foreign service world are also posting this, but I learned this morning that a young FSO was killed in Afghanistan this weekend and felt compelled to post as well. While her death may not get the coverage of the tragic death of Ambassador Stevens in Libya, this felt closer to home. I didn't know her, but it's a small world, and because she was serving in only her second tour, she was an A-100 classmate to many people that I know. She was only 25 and volunteered to go Afghanistan for her 2nd tour, a truly courageous thing to do. It's a reminder to me, as I enjoy my safe and comfortable life in Oslo, that this career is truly one of service.

All of us received an email from Secretary Kerry giving us the news firsthand, but the most touching words I've read on this came from her own parents:

Parents' statement on the death of Anne Smedinghoff

"The world lost a truly beautiful soul today. Our daughter, Anne, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, died in the service of her country as she was traveling with a group to deliver books to a local school in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan. She joined the Foreign Service three years ago right out of college and there was no better place for her. Anne absolutely loved the work she was doing. Her first assignment was in Caracas, Venezuela. She then volunteered for an assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, which she began in July, 2012. Working as a public diplomacy officer, she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people and was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war. We are consoled knowing that she was doing what she loved, and that she was serving her country by helping to make a positive difference in the world. She was such a wonderful woman--strong, intelligent, independent, and loving. Annie, you left us too soon; we love you and we're going to miss you so much. -- Tom & Mary Beth Smedinghoff"

Statement from Secretary Kerry

"Our State Department family is grieving over the loss of one of our own, an exceptional young Foreign Service Officer, killed today in an IED attack in Zabul province, along with service members, a Department of Defense civilian, and Afghan civilians. Four other State Department colleagues suffered injuries, one critically.

"Our American officials and their Afghan colleagues were on their way to donate books to students in a school in Qalat, the province's capital, when they were struck by this despicable attack.

"Just last week in Kabul, I met our fallen officer when she was selected to support me during my visit to Afghanistan. She was everything a Foreign Service Officer should be: smart, capable, eager to serve, and deeply committed to our country and the difference she was making for the Afghan people. She tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future.

"We also honor the U.S. troops and Department of Defense civilian who lost their lives, and the Afghan civilians who were killed today as they worked to improve the nation they love.

"I spoke this morning with our fallen Foreign Service Officer's mother and father and offered what little comfort I can for their immeasurable loss. As a father of two daughters, I can't imagine what her family is feeling today, or her friends and colleagues."

The full State Department statement is available here.

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